Suspension Tuning – Part 1 (Results): There’s a first time for everything…

…and then the renown goes into the crapper. Yes, I couldn’t believe it myself when I heard my own voice reverberating the dreaded words in my head: “Shit! The speed limit is too fast!” But we’ll get to that…

As I said in my previous post, I’ve done the obligatory 11-mile loop to test out my new configuration. But really that doesn’t tell you much, even though I was riding it like a jackass: extreme lane-weaving, swerves, quick-stops, hard acceleration, more stoppie attempts, more swerves… …all in the name of science. I wonder what people were thinking when they saw me scooting it down the road fairly erratically and seemingly out of control. Ah, who cares… Luckily, this road isn’t too busy, so I usually don’t have too many witnesses on my test flights.

The suspension travel: Before

The 'Before' pic: The Fat Lady's suspension travel.

The suspension travel: After

The 'After' pic: The Fat Lady's suspension travel.

Although, I couldn’t feel much of a difference, it’s much better than it was. It isn’t perfect, for perfection I’m missing 10 mm of additional preload in the front and optimally another 4 mm of fork tube raising would be in order. But I’ve reached the end of the Fat Lady’s adjustability, so this is the closest I can come to my ideal setup using stock hardware.

So, on to the story, then: It started with my usual loop, because I wasn’t really feeling up to exploring, since it’s still too cold for that sort of thing. Yeah, it was in the low 50s and sunny, but after about 60 miles of that I’m ready to go home, since I’m shivering all over. Anyway, I turn right onto the road that takes me through part of the Sumpter National Forest. It feels a little ‘bouncy’ today. This road is kind of rough for the first mile or so. It’s that cheap Aldi’s kind of asphalt, not smooth but more gravelly. You can actually see the little rocks in it. You know, shitty road. But I think nothing of it, I have never really liked the first part of it anyway. It’s bumpy, has cracks all over it in places and sports a few potholes. I don’t know why all these imperfections seem to be magnified today. I don’t like to bounce while leaning, makes me feel like I’m going to fall off. Once I get on the smooth part I open it up a little. A few more curves and the 25-mph 90-degree dogleg right is upon me. The only reason I go down this road, really. I take it at 65. I’m wider than usual, but still on my side of the road. Hmmm…. Oh yeah, I need to add a little more oomph next time, the ‘almost imperceptible’ heavy steering from the 11-mile loop is making itself known and it’s a little less imperceptible. Not a problem, I can definitely accommodate the Fat Lady. She does feel solid through that corner. She went where I put her. Smooth, but then this section of road is almost brand spanking new.

A few miles later I remember that silly obsession I have with finding that legendary ‘Kettle Creek’ road again. I google-mapped it, and there’s only one around here and it’s what I’ve long since dubbed the ‘Redneck Racetrack’, so if that’s the road they were talking about, I feel a little, well, underwhelmed. I mean I’m as horny for curvy roads as the next guy, but that really takes the cake. That’s desperation in motion. I wonder what the current lap record is. =] But I digress, so I’m off navigating by GPSr and reading street name signs, never mind the chill in the air. I take a few promising looking random turns (which is a dangerous undertaking in these parts), and a few miles later I hit the jackpot, or so I think. I quickly mash the ‘Mark’ button on my Garmin, because I need to be able to find this little piece of lean angle heaven later: Out in the middle of nowhere with no cops around to spoil the day. I have to keep reminding myself not to get too enthusiastic and outride my sight distance. I am in South Carolina after all, and a road can just decide to quit or turn into dirt or a gravel trail without warning. When the GPSr is routing this is usually indicated by incessant u-turn demands. It’s tough to behave, but I have a feeling about this, so I keep it reasonable.

Redneck Racetrack

Kettle Creek RD: The Redneck Racetrack

And with that last thought trailing, I round the next bend and find myself looking at a definite shift in surface color and quality. It seems like they redid this part, there aren’t any lines on it, but the cat eye markers are there to mark the centerline or where the centerline would be. It’s bumpy. What the hell?!? They forgot to smooth this out or what? Aren’t they supposed to do that when the stuff’s still hot, semi-viscous and smells like shit? Damn! It’s getting bumpier as I go. Hell, if I wanted to ride moguls I would have gone skiing! I’m down to the speed limit (which is 45, by the way) and still am feeling like I’m going too fast. Good gawd! In the name of all that’s holy! Just my luck, too. I find a curvy road and it’s shit; Mr. Murphy again and his asinine law. I can’t believe that I’m actually going the speed limit and am considering slowing down even further. I try to pick my way through using the smoothest path, with not much improvement in ride quality. I’m bouncing all over the place, the Fat Lady feels a lot like a pogo-stick and all this shaking is making me have to go pee. Curses! A pickup truck pulls out in front of me. For a change, I’m glad, it gives me an excuse to go slower still. Ha! I can hardly keep up with the truck. Chick on a Hayabusa is getting smoked by some dude in an old F-150 (or whatever the hell it is). Imagine that. My feelings are a little hurt. 😉 I see his rear axle bouncing over this heinous stretch of asphalt which is a road in name only. His rear tires are moving independently, rapidly hopping over the multitude of dips and peaks, the truck’s body twisting this way and that. I am almost mesmerized by the chaotic rhythm. I keep up, despite my growing nervousness and I wonder if there’s not a better way of negotiating rough roads like this. I’m really getting tired of getting slapped in the ass by my bike and putting up with all that shaking in my handle bars, trying to relax and letting the bike do its thing is getting tiresome. I shift my weight forward a little, and lift my rear off the seat. Hmmm… slightly better, but now my weight is on the bars. Little more. Now I’m practically standing on the pegs, in a half-crouch, supporting my weight by my thighs and core, knees in, but barely touching the tank. The weight is now off my wrists, fingers only lightly curled around the grips. Much better. Now my legs are acting as shock absorbers, and not bouncing around really smoothes things out a bit. Leaning into curves is an interesting feeling and I probably look like a dumbass doing it, but who cares. This is working. I feel more in control and I think The Fat Lady appreciates me not fighting her so much anymore. My thighs are getting tired; my thighs and several other muscle groups I didn’t know I had. This is great, I know I’m onto something here, since at one point I am seriously considering passing the bobbing truck in front of me, but decide against it at the last moment. “You don’t know this road, no telling what’s around the next curve.” Glad I listened to my voice of reason, because around the next corner awaits a stop sign, with not much room to spare. I soon find myself back on a real highway. Smooth, marked, clean. I pull into the next gas station without delay, since I am about to reach muscle failure and my bladder is screaming bloody murder. I take care of business, buy a drink and a small bag of Cape Cod’s parmesan cheese chips and have a seat on the curb in my bike’s parking spot. All I see around me are huge-ass trucks. I wonder why?!? An old dude in another one of those gigantic trucks, covered in red clay, pulls into the spot next to me. He gets out, big grin on his face. He says: “That is a fast looking bike. A real bike. Big. And a real-life girl riding it. Wow!” I smile up at him from my seat on the curb: “Yessir!” He’s amazed. “You really ride that thing?” – “Yessir.” – “You are a real girl!” I smile, then reply while pointing at the mud all over his vehicle: “Looks like you had a bit of fun, too.” His smile gets a little broader: “Because I’m a real boy.” I giggle. With that he goes inside. The guy had to have been in his late 70s. When he comes back out of the store, he stops and tells me that he rides, too. Then adds: “Real horses.” I tell him I always wanted to learn how to really ride a horse, but so far never have gotten out of canter. He smiles and says: “You look like a person who would enjoy riding.” We chat a little more and then he’s off again. Old guys rule.

I think it’s time I delved into “Suspension Tuning – Part 2: Damping”. Uh-huh, most definitely.

Linkage to the entire series:

  1. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Rider Sag, Free Sag, and Preload
  2. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Plan ‘A’. Plan ‘B’. Plan ‘C’ It Is.
  3. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Exploratory Surgery
  4. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Let’s Go Shopping!
  5. The (preliminary) results: OMG! OMG! OMG! The Fat Lady Can Dance?
  6. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: The Fat Lady’s Got Slammed
  7. Suspension Tuning – Part 1 (Results): There’s a first time for everything…


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